Friday, January 25, 2019

2018 - Looking Back

2018 - Looking Back

The Year in Review

With all my planned work for late 2018 and early 2019 finished, I can now take some time to reflect on the year that has just passed. 

An odd year with tremendous rain, the first thing that stands out in my memory is the advancements in flower phenotype I saw in the seedlings from the last three years of my rust resistance screening program. I have now seen each year that was screened in flower, including both F1 outcrosses and second generation seedlings from some of the oldest, five-year screened F1 seedlings, and I feel like I have an excellent, diverse base to select first level and secondary base plants. Some seedlings will undoubtedly be used in breeding, but only become tertiary, perhaps not even making the cut to stay in my program, with only some of their genes remaining in descendants. The process of selecting truly superior plants, both in terms of performance and breeding value, is to spend some time with them, observing through multiple years, and making selections over time based upon longterm performance, both in the garden and in the seedling bed. But I digress...

The winter of early 2018 was warm and rainy and then cold and rainy/snowy/frozen repeatedly, with the obligatory warm spells sprinkled in between. The cold lasted well into April here, and so all faster-growing daylilies (which emerge from winter rest after five seconds of warmish weather), and any plants that had the temerity to come out early, were repeatedly blasted. We lost many plants of many genera that appear to have simply rotted in the ground. I have never seen peony take such a hit! Both types were effected, with the herbaceous taking the most damage, but the woody types also sustained substantial damage, which I have never seen before. Tree peony usually show high frost tolerance here. I also lost more daylilies in the winter of 2018 than I have ever lost in winter before, however, that was only about 32 cultivars and no seedlings. While the cultivars that died did show some consistent features such as foliage behavior or frost susceptibility, the other points were rather random, covering plants that had been in the garden for over a decade through established plants to plants that had been here for only a year or two. There was not a significant loss of one or two year plants though, so it wasn't just new plants being lost. For instance, the remaining clumps of Nivia Guest, which I have been growing here since in mid-1990s, were decimated last spring. While the winters for the last four or five years have been gradually wearing it away, I don't think we have any of it left now.

However, that harsh, killing winter and spring were not just something to mourn! They also offered the opportunity to observe what survived, how well those survived and what their performance was. As one would expect, there were a lot of problems in the early/early group. The late freezes and cool, rainy late spring made the display poor on many early/early cultivars. However, as usual, Whooperee and Spider Man looked good. Solaris Symmetry gave its usual good performance. I was further able to observe the seedlings that I have been selecting for good performance in the early/early flowering season. I was very happy to see that the majority of the seedlings that have had three or more years of selection for good early/early performance continued to give excellent performance. Amongst those, the most note-worth is a seedling that has consistently been my earliest flowering tetraploid, always showing great performance here in this difficult season in my garden. It is a 2019 introduction - Eos At Dawn - and was germinated here in August 2011.

The 2018 spring shipping season was good for me, though I overdid myself several times. I was very happy to distribute some of my own introductions to several daylily breeders. I look forward to seeing how they use them in breeding, and hearing how they have done! My flower season begins about the time I finish shipping, with just a couple of weeks in between. Those are always busy with weeding! With all the rain, weeding was a major theme all year!

Solaris Symmetry 2018

The season itself was rainy and hot, much like a tropical rainforest.  Weed growth (as well as plant growth) was extreme. I had very good flowering on most things from the early season on. Early/early (as always) was the most damaged, with any sign of damage from the difficult spring showing less and less as each part of the season unfolded. I had to be very careful all summer, as my pinched nerve was in overdrive and everything I did irritated it and threatened 'an episode'. While most of my summer was spent battling a verdant display of weeds, I also took time to do a few pollinations that I thought were important. I did everything I could to take care of myself and not precipitate a physical injury and didn't end up with a full episode of pinched nerve, so that was great, and the breedings I accomplished this summer, I think, were very important for the future of my program. Even though the year was productive, it was painful, my shoulder was frozen and every time I bent over T4 threatened to pop out of place. For whatever reason, typing caused me tremendous pain in my shoulders all summer and so unanswered emails have stacked up and multiple planned blog posts didn't get written. In spite of all that, it was a lovely year!

2018 Garden Images
(More text below the pictures)

I love the combination of the bright, hot, magenta coneflowers and the cool, pale yellow daylilies in this shot.

The cool blue-gray of the fescue grass combined with the hot coneflowers and neutral green of Sun-hosta makes a nice effect here. A rock garden border leading into a wildflower border, leading to a daylily bed.

Soft, lavender-pink coneflowers serve as a backdrop to daylily 'Orange Velvet'. 'Orange Velvet' usually blooms on taller scapes in this particular location.  Short scapes in my gardens seem to correlate with instances of late spring freezes. This one grows in a very open location and many things around it suffered from late spring freezes in 2018.

Tall, well-branched daylily seedlings in a border planting including Asclepias, Crocosmia, Echinacea and Solidago. These are select seedlings from my breeding program that are being tested for landscape applications in mixed perennial borders. The branching and bud count of the peach-orange seedling (center) is quite nice. 

Seedling Bed - 2018

Hybridizing Garden - 2018

During the spring it became obvious to me that I had to make a big shift in plantings in 2018. That was one reason I was disappointed that I couldn't do much in the summer, but I was able to make two donations of older cultivars, which freed up a great deal of space to rearrange many of my plants, especially in my line out bed. I was so grateful to the people from both clubs who came and dug the plants! You all did me a huge service there, and I hope the plants benefit the clubs!

Seedling Bed

By August I felt like I could dig again and I began moving things, digging plants to ship and digging seedlings for line out. It became clear to me through the season that some major changes had to happen in the large mixed flower gardens. I had begun removing old plantings that have been in place for a long time, many having proven to be lesser performers over the longterm. I started that work the previous summer (2017) and completed it (for the most part) this fall (2018). 

In the spaces where these plants were removed, select seedlings and my own introductions have gone back in their place. This is further testing, starting by putting in single, double or triple fans (depending on what was available) and seeing how they perform, in the process allowing them to become established display clumps. Three different major display beds have received this treatment. These daylily plantings will not really look great again until 2020 to 2021, but with a mixed flower garden, there will still be some flowers of other genera of plants, as well as the few established daylily clumps that were retained. Things planted last year will start to give a show this year, being full mature in 2020, while those planted in fall 2018 should be at peak by 2021.

One of the mixed flower beds that was overhauled in 2018. The addition of chainlink fencing has kept the deer out, and gave us the feeling of security to go ahead with this big garden overhaul.

Another large section of the garden was being grown as a perennial bed in the style of a prairie or field, but using plantings of native and garden perennials mixed together. In recent years, it has become hard to manage. A tiny piece of Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon' made its way into this bed and is threatening to take the entire larger garden, while I made the mistake of leaving some native, volunteer Clematis virginiana in the bed (because it is lovely!) that had become gigantic and spread by seeds aggressively in the bed. A long border has been worked in behind this over the last three years and is now mature. So I have mowed off the part of the 'wildflower' bed where the Houttuynia and the Clematis are growing. 

A section of mixed border bed

This allowed me to reshape the entire layout of the large garden this wildflower bed is part of. I have removed some of the desirable plants from this bed last fall and have more to do in the spring. I also added a large number of new daylily plantings and will be adding more in the next year or two to bulk up certain of the background areas. Because I now want to accentuate the mowed area (which will be worked back into grass) between the two main sections of this garden, while letting the long, narrow border bed become the main backdrop, I will want to make some slight changes in where clumps of tall daylilies are worked into the back line of the front bed. I expect the back border bed (which due to its shape is very easy to weed) will give a good show, as much of it is mature. New daylily plantings added to the wider, eastern end of this border won't give a full show next year, and won't be fully mature until 2021, but gardens seem to be constantly evolving things, in my experience.

I would like to report that for the first year in several years, we have no deer damage in this garden. Tall chainlink fencing seems to do the trick! Notify Ground Crew here with 6' fencing. While deer can jump a 6' fence, the addition of rows of barbed wire at the top, slanting outward, makes the fence secure from deer, as they don't have good depth perception and won't attempt to jump because of the combined height and top strands of barbed wire.

With all the new room that I had opened up this year, I lined out over 100 seedlings from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 for final testing. I culled out some things from the hybridizing garden, though less than usual. Many of the lined out seedlings also came from the hybridizing garden. I then replaced those seedlings in the hybridizing garden with new select seedlings from the seedling beds, allowing another cycle to start. There won't be much to see in the hybridizing garden this year, as so many things there are new plantings, with only about fifty older, established clumps of select cultivars from other hybridizers to give a good show. It will be a great year for evaluating division recovery, though!

Seedling bed

Even though I removed 100+ seedlings from the seedling bed last year to move to other locations for further testing, the seedling beds will still be quite full, and will probably be the only beds here where things will look full and mature. Most of the plants removed from the seedling beds went into the hybridizing garden, line out garden or one of the mixed flower gardens. All of those gardens were in one way or another overhauled and so the majority of daylily plantings are new and won't give a great show for a couple of years, but in the end, the show will be better, the weeds easier to control and I can continue testing my plants to select for excellent performers.

Hybridizing Garden

In November, after all the planting was finished, I had a chainlink fence added around my line out bed to make a more secure final testing field that is well-protected from deer. Most of the plants I donated to daylily clubs in 2018 came out of the line out bed and I  managed to refill all open slots, but there is still lots of room to expand over the next few years into this bed as new line outs are ready. I am in no rush to fill it up! Space, I am finding, is the most value thing possible in any breeding project!

New chainlink deer fence around line out bed.

Once the fencing was done, I then moved on to making 150 slides for a future presentation, preparing the new introductions for 2019 and updating my website. 2018 was gone, and it seemed like it had gone very quickly once I finished up all my work and gave it a moments thought. On to 2019, with high hopes for new seedlings and new breeding schemes! Best wishes for you and your garden in 2019! :-)